Monday, June 11, 2012

How Embarrassing

I'm a relatively new Queenslander, having been here just ten years, but it's taken less than three months of the new Queensland LNP Government for me to feel embarrassed to be a Queenslander.

Don't misunderstand me; I wasn't always a happy Queenslander under the Beattie and Bligh Governments either. Yet in under three months, Premier Newman and his titanic team of baby MPs have annoyed me, disappointed me, frightened me, angered me and finally embarrassed me.

The Prime Minister, a handful of key federal ministers, most of the states' Premiers and  swag of top tier business leaders will meet in Brisbane this week for a national brainstorming session on Australia's role in the changing global economy. If that sounds like a bit of a big deal, that's because it could be, if the delegates are prepared to leave their titles and egos at the door.

But Premier Campbell Newman won't be there. He is too busy to represent the state that he leads at a major summit to discuss the economic future of the country. Even when the talkfest is being held in his home town. Never mind leaving his ego at the door; Premier Newman's ego is so big at the moment that he can't see around it. 

I'd like to see Premier Newman's diary for this week. I'm not denying that he has important work to do with his 100 Day Plan, yet how can he guide Queensland's future if he won't engage with the federal government, business leaders and his state counterparts? Furthermore, how can Queenslanders feel confident that we are being represented, if our most senior representative won't attend meetings being held literally up the street from his office?

Just a week after federal Environment Minister Tony Burke played a spiteful game of duelling press conferences with Queensland's Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney, this appear to be nothing more than another round of He-Man chest-beating from the new Government. Alternately, it could be a display of personal disrespect aimed at Prime Minister.

In a last minute attempt to get a seat at the table, Premier Newman offered to send a couple of junior ministers, but was told that registration for the event had closed. That's a shame, and possibly another example of politicians playing silly games, but equally, offering up a pair of junior ministers to sit at a table with the Prime Minister and her ministers,  and the heads of some of our most influential businesses, insults the rest of the participants. In any case, it wouldn't have been necessary if Mr Newman had done the right thing and accepted the invitation to represent Queensland's interests.

Premier Newman is a new player at this level; he still needs to secure those relationships. Even though the Labor Government looks like being rolled, the private sector representatives at this summit won't be. 

Premier Newman was offered a seat at the table and declined it, as did the Premiers of New South Wales and Western Australia...but this summit is not being held in Sydney or Perth. It's here in Brisbane, but it might as well be on the moon.

Common wisdom within a democracy suggests that if you don't participate in the process, you lose the right to complain if you don't like the decisions made in your absence. Decisions are made by those who show up. Premier Newman's decision to not show up undermines Queensland's position, and makes our new Premier look like an uncooperative prima donna.

How embarrassing.

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